Dan Perjovschi is an artist, journalist and cartoonist born in Sibiu in 1961. After graduating from the Art High School in Sibiu, he attended the Art Academy in Iași. During the communist regime he was one of the prominent members of Atelier 35 in Oradea. He is currently a graphic designer for Revista 22 and one of the best-known contemporary Romanian artists.


His project is called “Insert” and consists of a series of drawings infiltrated into three elements of the public space: the press and the magazines printed in Timișoara, Bucharest, Iași and Sibiu, on a tram that will run in Timișoara during 2023 and on a street billboard used as an exhibition space. “Insert” acts and activates territories that are different from conventional exhibition spaces.


The artist, whom you will (re)discover below in an interview for ArtSens, understands and represents the world through his drawings, always on the border between art and social or political reportage. His drawings are, short and to the point visual editorials that describe the present lucidly and experimentally.


Cătălin Alb: The “Insert” project has a strong performative note, as it is conceived and exhibited in several manners and spaces. What was your intention regarding your public?

Dan Perjovschi: I show and operate spaces for visual arts outside the museum and the white cube. I never wait for the members of the public to come to me; I go to them through newspapers, billboards and trams. In other words, I overturn conventions, what is art, where is art and who makes the audience of art. A tram that runs around the city for a year draws all the inhabitants of the city as its audience, right? In other words, I’m going to have a bigger audience than the local football team, right?


C.A.: The Revolution of 1989 is repeated in your creations. In Timișoara, the wind of change blew and the Revolution began 33 years ago. How do you currently relate to that moment?

D.P.: For me, the Revolution is a FUNDAMENTAL moment, a founding moment of my own as a citizen and an artist. I will NEVER forget it. Timișoara has always been part of that moment. I preserve parts from that moment on all the walls I’ve drawn all over the planet. Something of that madness of gaining freedom of expression exists in every drawing or word of mine. That’s why I draw in black and white, that’s why I write on walls. That’s why my art has a political agenda.


C.A.: A panel in “Insert” refers to your performance in the early 90s at the “Untitled State” Festival, when you locked yourself in the doorkeeper’s cabin, covered it in paper and drew on it for 3 days and 2 nights, until it turned from white to black. What memories do you have of that time?

D.P.: It was a lasting performance. It was the first free art festival and I didn’t want to meet my generation of artists because at the time I thought that my generation and I were cowards, we hadn’t done much and we hadn’t fought against the dictatorship openly. In the meantime, I had a slight change of heart, because organising weekly exhibitions, as I did with Atelier 35 Oradea, in a frozen and futureless society is a dissident act.

I also wanted to show that drawing is a performative medium and not necessarily something to be framed. And that the museum is not just a ballroom. Although I drew while locked in a room, my performance was political.


C.A.: How much has artistic position on art in public space changed since then?

D.P.: In 1990 or 1991 there was no art in public space. We invented it. In those early days, the body was something radical. The body that had been sacrificed for freedom, right? People had died in the streets. You could still feel tension in your veins. Now the streets are for carnivals. And Christmas fairs.

Yes, it has changed a lot. I used the body and did performance because the BODY was a radical material. And cheap. We were poor but brave. Now we are no longer poor and have become conformists. In the 90s we talked about freedom of expression, opinion and movement. Now we talk about money, budgets, fees, auctions, quotas. That’s why I do INSERT, to remind people what freedom means. That’s why my drawings look like a revolutionary graffiti manifesto, written in great hurry on the walls of cities freeing themselves from dictatorships. That’s why I draw politically but never aesthetically.


C.A.: Your audience differs with the places where you exhibit. Are you intrigued by how the drawings you will make on the Timisoara tram might be perceived?

D.P.: I drew the entire glass facade of what is the Kunsthalle Bega today (for the first Art Encounters Biennial). I drew 100 lampposts in all the neighbourhoods of Timisoara (for the Beta Architecture Biennale). I had my first solo show at Indecis (an artist-run space, not a museum). My 1993 performance, when I tattooed the word “Romania” on my shoulder, is in the G. Pompidou collection in Paris today. All these works have their audience. Students, not necessarily art students, and pensioners who subscribe to Revista 22 come to the openings of my shows. I am popular both with the director of the museum and its doorman… Lately I have been especially popular with doormen because I had a bit of an argument with the directors.


C.A.: What is your relationship with the City of Timișoara, what connects you to it? What do you think it has that other cities don’t have or what does it need right now?

D.P.: At this moment, in visual arts, Timișoara is Romania’s major scene. I am honoured to be a part of the projects here. I will never forget those days when the whole country, including me, listened helplessly (to Radio Free Europe, because we didn’t have internet and social media) as Timișoara fought, died and resurrected alone. And we kept silent. Timișoara, the first free city. The Zona Festivals and my relationship with the independent zone, Tam Tam, Indecis, Contrasens, Art Encounters meant a lot to me as an artist. And the Revolution Memorial. I always come to Timișoara with great pleasure, both as an artist and activist. I have good friends here and great respect for many artists and projects there. Studfest back in the day, Sit and Read, Two Owls, Secret Garden now and many more.


C.A.: As an established artist who has exhibited in so many places, how do you see your work and career from the outside? Does the way your works are received influence or touch you?

D.P.: Yes and no. Obviously, the public plays an important role and as you can see my art is more “popular” with non-specialists precisely because its nature is that of a newspaper drawing. When I have projects in the public space, the comments on social media or the citizens’ reactions naturally affect me positively or negatively. But I’ve been in this business long enough to no longer have the illusion of total admiration. I’ve been drawing for The Horizontal Newspaper in Sibiu for 13 years and I still haven’t been able to persuade the locals that that wall is art or that it is at least worth a look.


C.A.: You have an extraordinary sense of rendering concepts, emotions, revolutions and acute changes in society in simple and short words and drawings. If you were to sum up the state of Romanian culture at this moment, what would it be?

D.P.: Mediocre. Exhausted. Obedient. No revolution.